Israel’s domestic security service said Wednesday it had revealed and arrested members of a 40-person Hamas cell in the Nablus region of the West Bank, foiling an attack still in the planning stage and breaking apart a community-wide infrastructure.
The arrests, conducted over the past months, were made public amid a rise in terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and corresponding calls from settlers to increase the Israeli army’s preventative actions in the region.
Over the past 10 days there have been four shootings and two stabbings, claiming the lives of Israelis Danny Gonen and Malachi Rosenfeld and wounding several more.
The Shin Bet said the Nablus cells were run from Qatar, by Hussam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson and a native of Nablus.
Budran, operating under Saleh al-Arouri, the Turkey-based head of Hamas operations in the West Bank, sent messages to the operatives in Nablus via “email channels,” the Shin Bet said, apparently referring to non-direct messages, and laundered the money into gold jewelry transported into the West Bank from Jordan.
Anan Fatuah and Samih Aliwi, West Bank shop-owners, allegedly received cash from a Nablus couple that had traveled to Jordan for medical care but were, in fact, a forward unit of Hamas. The couple, Bassam and Mona Sayih, allegedly transferred the funds to Fatuah, who bought gold in Jordan and sold it along with Aliwi in their shop, funneling the money to Hamas operatives.
The Shin Bet and police said they found NIS four million (roughly one million dollars) in cash and gold during the arrests.
The 40-person infrastructure engaged in a wide range of activity, from education to media to charity, and was in the process of planning a terror attack.
Two of the arrested, Anas Abbas and Taufiq Sualmeh, admitted under questioning to planning a terror attack and buying night vision goggles to further the execution of that plan. They allegedly were in contact with operatives from Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC terror organization in Syria.
Indictments are expected in the coming days, the Shin Bet said.
The security agency added that the large infrastructure proves “yet again” the extent to which Hamas operatives abroad and in the West Bank are willing to go to establish both social and terror Hamas activity in the West Bank.
“All this [was done] with the intent of strengthening the organization’s grip on the ground and to lay the groundwork for the day on which the order is given to carry out terror activity,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.